So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. - Mark 4:26-29
Too many of us treat the Kingdom as a commodity; something to be measured and manufactured. This mechanistic mindset seems to be a reflection of the industrialized thinking of the age, which has largely lost touch with soil and sawdust: those elemental substances that speak silently of darker, deeper things.
As the passage above intimates, in gentle rebuke, the Kingdom of God is not moving down some spiritual assembly-line. It is rooted firmly in the dirt - like the righteous man of Psalm 1 - like a tree. (See the immediately following parallel parable in Mark.)
A tree may very well be the ultimate expression of dynamic permanence. It is alive, yes; it is changing, yes; but mostly it is there.
You can not make a tree, or for that matter anything else that is organic and alive, out of parts; it must be nurtured and grown, and even then the process proceeds only as fast as the rain, sun and soil allow. So with the Kingdom of God. Quiet, hidden, unhurried, God's servants go about their daily business with a serene confidence in the gradual fulfillment of His work.
And it is work. The scriptural challenge is to embrace the waiting and the inevitability as truths, while simultaneously avoiding laziness and lethargy. Just because the harvest comes in its own good time does not mean there is nothing to do - on the contrary. I know of few labors more demanding than farming or orcharding; there is little luxury and much responsibility.
This whole perspective is diametrically opposed to the core ideology behind Reconstructionism and Dominion theology. These would-be redeemers of society, like modern-day zealots, seek to impose the Kingdom from the top down. The end is noble, but the means are sadly misguided. It has proved quite difficult to grow trees by hanging leaves in the air.
Rich Mullins understood: "New Jerusalem won't be as easy to build as I hoped it would be / As I hoped it would be easy to build / New Jerusalem won't be so easy to build / there's many bellies to fill and many hearts to free / Gotta set them free" The point is that the whole thing is more about freeing hearts and filling bellies than convincing minds and winning elections.
The church could use a few less politicians and a few more Johnny Mustardseed's.
Image courtesy of jointedgoatgrass.org